The California Death Penalty Cost Fraud:
A Rebuttal to “Cut This: The Death Penalty”(1)
Death Penalty vs Life Costs in California
By Dudley Sharp, contact info below
Clark/CCFAJ’s cost review is wildly inaccurate and I doubt that there is any more veracity to the death row costs than with their lifer cost evaluations. None of Clark/CCFAJ’s numbers can be relied upon.
Clark says: “In total, California’s death penalty system costs taxpayers $137 million per year. Contrast that with just $11 million per year if we replace the death penalty with permanent imprisonment.”
For 700 inmates, that is:
death penalty costs: $137 million per year or $196,000//inmate/yr.
life imprisonment costs: $11 million/year or $15,700/inmate/yr.
It is complete utter nonsense.
Some reality:
The last full California audit (Sept 2009) found the average costs, 2007-2008, per adult inmate was $49,000/inmate/yr. (2)  In 1997, it was $25,000/inmate/yr. (3).
This $49,000/inmate/yr is the average for all inmates, not the level IV security of death row inmate like criminals that will cost more, if not much more.  Clark is stating that these enhanced security prisoners will cost $34,000/inmate/yr LESS than the average cost for all Ca inmates. Clark’s lack of credibility is of an astounding level. Clark’s analysis is laughable.
But, Clark/CCFAJ  get even worse.
Without the death penalty, Clark/CCFAJ’s select group of former death row murderers would likely be in level IV security and, as lifers, would die as geriatric prisoners or from earlier illness, likely costing on average $80,000-$100,000/inmate/yr., or more, with a rare few costing a $1 million or more per year with illness and/or geriatric stages. Geriatric problems often begins at age 50 for inmates.
NOTE: The California Medical Facility for corrections averages $83,000/inmate/yr. (4). Add to that the additional costs of Level IV security cells.
But, for Clark/CCFAJ, former death row inmates, now lifers, cost $15,700/inmate/yr.
But, it gets even worse for Clark/CCFAJ.
Clark will admit,  if prodded (5) that “the figure of $137 million estimates the entire cost of the death penalty system, not simply housing, but also inclusive of all post-conviction costs, including legal appeals.”
In other words, Clark is admitting escalating the death penalty costs over the alleged cost comparisons of incarceration between lifers and death row. Not at all surprising Clark excludes such from the lifer costs.
The Clark/CCFAJ’s cost comparisons/evaluations are a very bad joke. Instead of making an honest apples to apples cost comparison, Clark brings us an apples to Rolls Royce cost comparison, as if it is apples to apples.
Because so many of these cost comparisons are so pathetically unreliable, California considered that an objective assessment  by RAND should be considered (6). The basis for a proper evaluation was presented, but Ca rejected doing the study.
CONCLUSION –  Save even more money?
There is no need for California to have a death row. Current death row prisoners can be placed in Level IV security cells, or lower levels depending upon evaluations, just as Missouri and Kansas do.
California can make their death sentenced inmates cheaper than their lifers, if they properly manage their citizens money, as Virginia does.  California must only have the will to be responsible stewards of their citizens resources – something that seems to elude California lawmakers, just as basic, accurate evaluations evade Clark/CCFAJ.
Today,  there is no reason for Ca death row to cost more than level IV security and a proper evaluation would likely show death row cheaper or no more expensive than Level IV.
There would be no cost savings in getting rid of death row, with the exception that, if Calif had a responsible death penalty protocol, there would be many more executed murderers, thus reducing incarceration costs on death row, saving money on incarcerations costs over other level IV prisoners.
(1) An article by James Clark, field organizer, ACLU of Southern California.\
(2) pg 77, fiscal year 2007-2008,
(6) “Investigating the Costs of the Death Penalty in California: Insights for Future Data Collection in California, RAND Corp., 2/2008
Sincerely, Dudley Sharp
e-mail,  713-622-5491,
Houston, Texas
Mr. Sharp has appeared on ABC, BBC, CBS, CNN, C-SPAN, FOX, NBC, NPR, PBS , VOA and many other TV and radio networks, on such programs as Nightline, The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, The O’Reilly Factor, etc., has been quoted in newspapers throughout the world and is a published author.
A former opponent of capital punishment, he has written and granted interviews about, testified on and debated the subject of the death penalty, extensively and internationally.
Pro death penalty sites
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8 thoughts on “The California Death Penalty Cost Fraud: A Rebuttal to “Cut This: The Death Penalty

  • October 11, 2010 at 2:45 pm

    Since when does the cost of justice become an issue? The cost of my brother’s life outweighs the cost of putting these people to death.

  • October 13, 2010 at 9:38 pm

    Dudley Sharp said:

    “if Calif had a responsible death penalty protocol, there would be many more executed murderers, thus reducing incarceration costs on death row, saving money on incarcerations costs over other level IV prisoners”

    Response: The most important word you mentioned in that sentence is “if”.

    Comparing California to Virginia is like comparing apples to oranges. California falls under the jurisdiction of the Ninth Circuit, whereas Virginia falls under the jurisdiction of the Fourth Circuit. Unlike Virginia, California does not even remotely have a functioning death penalty system, and it probably will not have one any time within the next fifty years.

    It has executed only 13 inmates since 1976, but it has more than 700 death row inmates. Supporting the death penalty in California under these circumtsances takes stupidity to a new level.

    There are times when commonsense must take precedence over blind populist idealism. It is time for politicians to do the intelligent thing and abolish California’s death penalty once and for all.

    If the tax and spend socialists want to reintroduce it, the burden should be on them to come up with a more economically viable death penalty protocol.

  • October 14, 2010 at 4:08 pm


    I agree.

    If California cares about justice and about taxpayers money (like you, I am not sure they care one wit), then it is easy to restructure the system.

    I agree, there has to be the will to do it.

  • October 16, 2010 at 5:15 am

    Mr. Sharp, death penalty advocates in California do not care one wit about taxpayers’ money. They are so irrationally idealistic that they think exactly like tax and spend socialists.

    Your argument is more of a woulda, coulda, shoulda argument.

    If you are still alive in 2060,
    you will still be making the same arguments about California’s death penalty. Not much has changed since 1976, so why should things be much different fifty years from now? I predict that California will execute no more than fifty people between now and 2060.

    At this stage, it is much easier to abolish the death penalty in California than it is to reform it. You know very well that the California legislature will never reform it.

    The death penalty in California is pro-socialist. The abolition of the death penalty in California is pro-capitalist.

    Abolition. Abolition. Abolition.

  • February 20, 2011 at 4:11 am

    Hey all

    Maybe there is a bluetooth for the new iphone 4 besides the i phone bluetooth as well as the JAW BONE bluetooth?
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  • April 19, 2011 at 3:44 pm

    Спасибо информативно, только можно узнать как с вами связатся есть пару вопросов по теме.

  • April 28, 2011 at 5:49 pm

    Thanks for the news! Just thinking about it! By the way Happy New Year to all of you;)


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